long tail

Search Engine Optimization

The Wisest Person’s Guide to Long Tail Keyword Marketing

2 Jul , 2008  

This morning I took a look at my incoming search keywords on Google and found I ranked first for the term, “who are wisest people all over the world.”  Unfortunately, I don’t even appear on the first page of results for the more grammatically accurate term, “who are the wisest people all over the world,” but I figure that’s OK. Anyone searching for wisdom with such poor grammar is probably better off ending up on my site, rather than bugging the world’s wisest people with their strange and inaccurately worded queries.  Questions like “What is meaning of life?” and “Where do we go after die?” can probably become fairly annoying after a while if you actually are the wisest person all over the world.

For the record, neither query on Google returns any results of real relevancy, so I was unable to obtain a list or even a suggestion of whom might be the wisest people in the world. But if you’re after knowledge rather than wisdom, you’ve come to right place, because I’m the smartest guy I know.

The point of my blog post is not to brag (but wait, aren’t all blogs narcissistic by nature?) but to demonstrate a long tail keyword case study.  For the uninitiated, when I talk about long tail marketing I’m talking about those 3 and 4 word keyword  phrases which (hopefully) comprise the majority of terms for which your site ranks.  For example, there may be massive competition to rank first on Google for the term “SEO;” therefore it is more difficult to obtain a #1 ranking.  But it is much easier, and there is far less competition, to rank highly for keywords such as “SEO marketing in NJ” and “NJ SEO marketing help.”  While not as many people may be searching for those longer four word terms, taken as a whole they should represent more search volume than just the popular one word keyword.

A graph showing top ten results vs. long tail results.  To the right is the long tail, to the left are the top ten site queries (also demonstrating the 80-20 rule)

So how do you use long tail marketing in SEO?  The answer is simple, and is at the core of this long tail case study: Niche marketing.  In my keyword example, you may have observed that anyone searching for the term “SEO” may be actually looking for any of a number of topics.  They may want to know how to optimize their web pages for search engines, or they may want to know how to use a robots.txt file appropriately, or they may be looking to hire an SEO professional.  As someone marketing my SEO services in New Jersey, I probably don’t stand a good chance of converting any of those visitors into sales once they come to my site.  But if I focus on marketing in my own niche, which is SEO Marketing in NJ, I can begin to target more relevant queries and visitors using long tail techniques.

How do you know which long tail keywords to use?  That happens to be a much more difficult question to answer.  You really can’t anticipate all the long tail keywords visitors might use to find your website, since they are, by definition, so varied and obscure.  I never imagined my blog might be the first to rank for the term  “who are wisest people all over the world,” although truthfully, in my heart of hearts, of course I always hoped it would be so.  So how could I have anticipated that?

One answer is in statistics – you just can’t have enough.  I’m always checking out my keywords in Google Analytics (click on Traffic Sources > Keywords).  If you’re not using Analytics or some other kind of traffic statistics tracking, go out and get some.  In my case, my blog mostly ranks for long tail terms since I’m not actively promoting nor marketing towards any high-volume one-word keywords.  By reviewing these long tail keywords, I know how people are finding the site, and I can optimize for those terms.

Another great tool I use is Hittail.  To use Hittail you add some non-intrusive javascript code to the bottom of your page (just like Google Analytics), and it in turn tracks all incoming queries for your website.  Hittail will then make suggestions about which long tail queries are finding your site, but which are not optimized (usually this means which long tail keywords for which you are ranking below #1 or #2 in the SERPs).  They will also show your long tail results in terms of top ten vs. long tail rank.  For example, my biggest top ten hit is the term “Barry Wise.” Quite fitting, since that’s my name.  Top ten results are those which occur the most frequently, and appear within the top ten of all queries by volume for your site.   So on this blog top ten results comprise just 12.7% of all queries which find my site.  Long tail keywords comprise 87.3% of all my incoming search engine traffic.

Other sites’ statistics may vary, but long tail theory always talks about the 80-20 rule.  In SEO and search engine traffic volume, I apply the 80-20 rule thusly:

roughly 20% of your website traffic is probably coming from top ten queries, and 80% is (or should be) coming from long tail keywords.

If 80% of your traffic is coming from anywhere, you better pay attention to what that anywhere is and how it’s getting to you.  Hence the importance of studying your long tail results and optimizing for them.

In the end, marketing for your long tail is just like chasing your own tail; something you should always be going after and constantly striving to market towards. It’s an evolving, never-ending marketing push to optimize your site and your keywords, and if you’re lucky, you may actually one day become the wisest person at it. At least in your own niche market, which is of course considerably smaller than all over the world, or in your own mind, which is hopefully even larger.

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4 Responses

  1. Great article Barry. For businesses in highly contended spaces, getting good rankings for long tail keywords is so much more feasible. I’m not an SEO expert but you’re making a lot of sense.

  2. goacom says:

    Long tail keywords do make more sense. Lesser competition and more efforts in optimising for them should probably get good results. The numbers may be low but more surely though.

    Very informative post. Thanks barry.

  3. Steven says:

    Hi Barry, thanks for a great article. Thought I’d mention if your running a PPC campaign using long tail keywords it’s imperative that you implement a good set of negative keywords.

    Negative Keywords can save you a lot of money, or if you are willing to keep your PPC spend the same, can make you a lot of money!

    Defining negative keywords can be a long, slow arduous task. Either by guesswork or by trawling through loads of enquiry data, most businesses just do not have the time to search for irrelevant keywords and simply end up with a few negative words in their campaigns.

    We’ve personally fallen foul of not implementing negative keywords. You can learn all about negative keywords at KeywordTerminator by picking up our Free White Paper, Be Positive – Go Negative.

    Cheers, Steve

  4. This is a nice read Barry and it all make sense to me. We encounter these problems and getting on the rank first is a battle. Great tips and I actually share some of your article to my colleagues.

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